Anyone running the marathon this weekend? I have a hunch that the overlap between people who, say, read a home cooking blog that unapologetically embraces butter and people who, say, run 26.2 miles in their spare time as an personal challenge, is slim-to-none. And yet, I know a handful of people running this weekend that love good cooking as I do, despite the fact that we obviously have nothing else in common. Seeing as they run when not chased, I bet they also do dishes for pleasure and go to bed advisably early for a less cranky tomorrow. Weirdos.
But we can meet at a middle ground affectionately called “carbo-loading”. Runners do it before big races. The rest of us do it because it’s winter and we’re evolutionarily programmed to pad ourselves for warmth. Or because we’re hungover. Or because we’ve been eating too much salad and strive for balance (snerk). And when it comes to carbo-loading, I think this spaghetti with chickpeas wins all trophies. It’s the potato pizza of pasta dishes; the squash risotto of comfort foods; the breadcrumb-topped baked macaroni-and-cheese from the files of So Good It Could Not Possibly Be Bad, Right?
I found this recipe from New York chef and owner of three great Italian restaurants in the city, Michael White, in an article that recommended it for, fittingly, carbo-loading. Despite the fact that I’m someone who finds over-sauced pasta dishes unforgivable, I still wanted almost twice what this recipe called for. I suggest that below. But we enjoyed it, just the same. I tucked in a bowl that felt like I’d eaten an entire pizza and then as much sleep as the tiny Master of the House allowed and woke up with a surplus of energy. Gosh, it’s like those marathoners are onto something!
One year ago: Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats and Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash
Two years ago: Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips and Pepita Brittle
Three years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
Four years ago: Bretzel Rolls and Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes
Spaghetti with Chickpeas [Spaghetti con Ceci]
From Michael White, via New York Magazine
As I mentioned above, despite generally wishing for pasta dishes with less, not more sauce, I wouldn’t mind this dish with 1 1/2 to 2 times the sauce. My sauce reduced significantly in the 20 minutes it simmered, uncovered. But, in case that’s just me, I’m sharing the recipe as written and if you are looking at the photos and thinking it needs a little more chickpea sauce love, go ahead and double it. Alternately, you could halve or two-thirds the pasta quantity but what fun would that be?
Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a first course or “2 to 3 marathoners”, says NYM
15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 2 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup chicken stock
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, diced (a little shy of 2 ounces)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch chile flakes
1 14-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
10 to 15 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Set 1/3 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped.
Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned; a splatter screen will make your stove look better than mine did after this. Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, or tastes like it could use an additional minute’s cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Toss pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through, about one minute. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed. Season again, as needed, and serve with grated Parmesan to pass.